Black Neon Tetra (A Complete Care Guide)

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Are you looking for enhancing the beauty of your tank? Or do you want a peaceful fish species to go ahead on with your fish-keeping journey? In either case, Black Neon Tetra is ideal for the role.

The perfection Black Neon Tetras bring to your aquariums with their beautiful body coloring and peaceful nature help them stand out in the community tank. And it’s totally undeniable!

With a small, dark neon body, paired with rapid body movements, the Black Neon Tetra will always have an edge over other freshwater aquarium fish.

They may not be as hugely popular in the aquarium trade as other Tetra species. But, they comfortably get on with their daily activities and manifest pleasant personality traits in community tanks. And their hassle-free dietary requirements are another plus point.

In this article, from basic care requirements to things understood only by experienced fish-keepers, you will get to know everything about the Black Neon Tetra. And along the way, I will give you some pro tips to help you have a better understanding of this freshwater fish species.

An Overview of Black Neon Tetras

Scientific NameHyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
Common NamesBlack Tetra, Neon Black, Neon Tetra (when wrongly identified)
OriginParaguay Basin, Southern Brazil
Care LevelEasy
LifespanUp to 5 years
Tank LevelTop to mid-dweller
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Temperature Range71° F to 82° F
Water Hardness6 KH
pH Range5.5 to 7.5
Filtration/Water FlowLow to moderate
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingEgg layer
Difficulty to BreedEasy
CompatibilityCommunity tanks
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes

What are Black Neon Tetras?

Black Neon Tetras, scientifically recognized as Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, are part of the Characidae family from the order Characiformes.

In the aquarium trade, their generic names are Black Neon Tetra, Neon Black, or Black Tetra. Regardless of which name of Black Neon tetras you use, they know how to make their way around.

Black Neon Tetra

In the wild, the Black Neon tetras sustain themselves on brine shrimp, algae, and bloodworms and prefer traveling through middle and upper levels of water.

Origin and Habitat

Originating from the basins, small rivers, and flooded forests of Brazil and Bolivia, Black Neon Tetras are now housed in aquariums across the world. They were first sighted in 1936 by the American Ichthyologist George Sprague Myers. Ever since their classification, they have never failed to amaze aquarists.

The streams of their natural habitat are stained brown because of tannins or decaying plant matter. In their natural habitat, Black Neon Tetras prefer warmer levels of water, ranging from 70° to 82° F. And stick to small rivers and inlets where, in some localities, you can find dense plants.

The water current of their natural habitat is low-to-moderate and slightly acidic, with a pH level ranging from 5.5 to 7.5.


These small, little Black Neon Tetras give a much more beautiful touch to your tank water with their overall body coloring than other tropical fish.

They got their name after their base body color and neon stripes. From the pair of these two bars, the first one is a white stripe that looks shimmery, followed by a thick black stripe.

The foot color of their bodies is velvety black and on top of the base color are two strikingly beautiful-colored bands. These stripes run horizontally from their gill cover to the end of their tail fin. Apart from being beginner-friendly, they seize the attention of aquarists with their physical appearance.

Black Neons in Planted Tank

Compared to the small size of the Black Neon Tetra, its transparent fins, including caudal, dorsal, and pelvic pin appear somewhat larger.

The Black neon tetra has a rounded mouth and rounded head and looks sleek in appearance. Female Tetras, however, look fuller from their bottoms and their underbellies look more prominent while being pregnant.

Differentiating a male Black Neon Tetra from a female Black Neon Tetra is almost impossible. They are so small and you can’t see any other apparent sign of gender difference other than knowing the female is larger.


The average lifespan of a Black Neon Tetra is around 5 years in captivity. In their natural habitat, adhering to health and fitness is hard. Therefore, some of them only make it up to a few months.

You can replicate those conditions in the tank. For a healthy lifestyle, give them a good-round diet and a peaceful environment.

The Black Neon Tetra is a hardy fish and can survive uneven water parameters and non-ideal water quality. But, failing at meeting their basic needs can put them through stress and cause fatal diseases.

Average Size

The size they get is around an inch. Some of these fish can grow a maximum size of 1.5 inches in aquariums. In the wild, they can stretch themselves up to 2 and a half inches, but this size is usually not attained for captive-bred fish to reach.


There are no special care requirements for a Black Neon Tetra. They are very easy-going, suitable for community aquariums, and eat pretty much everything you put in their tank. From flakes, bloodworms, and brine shrimp to frozen-dried food, these beautiful fish prefer a variety of easy-to-get foods to consume.

As long as you understand their natural behavior, needs, and things essential for them to thrive, you will have a good time handling them.

Black Neon Tetras prefer streaming in moderate water currents. The water does not have to be crystal-clear because they live in brown-stained water that is above 70° F and below 82° F in the wild.

Have at least a 20-gallon tank for Dark Neon Tetras. They might look too small for the tank, but they are schooling fish and live in groups of 6 to 10. Larger tanks will allow them to demonstrate their best natural behavior.

Also, a large tank, ideally a Biotope aquarium, can give them enough swimming space to enjoy their me-time and still conduct group gatherings.

Black Neon Tetras sustain themselves on crustaceans, algae, and insect larvae in their natural environment.

They are schooling fish and very amiable, and living alone can easily stress them out. So, keep at least half a dozen of them together, which is actually the bare minimum.

Black Neon Tetras stay active throughout the day and take rest during the night. And it’s very unlikely for them to show signs of aggression or hostility. They prioritize healthy company over solitude and love extending their company with their community tank mates.

Like other fish, Black Neon Tetras are also susceptible to some common diseases. But don’t worry!

Here are some really important things to consider before adding a Black Neon Tetra to your aquarium and how you can avoid unpleasant events in the best way possible.

Aquarium Setup

The key to pleasing your Black neon tetra is to replicate their natural environment as closely as possible.

In the wild, Black Neon Tetras live in small creeks and shallow streams full of plants. These plants provide them shade under where they can rest all through the night. And during the day, they hurtle through acidic water and look around for food.

Black Neon Tetras hardly travel down to the bottom and spend most of their time remaining in the upper levels.

The type of water Black Neon Tetras live in contains decomposed plant matter, which gives way to tannin. The tannin then makes the water brown and highly acidic.

Even if their natural water conditions are not well regulated, try replacing them with something more convenient while constructing their habitat.

Tank Size

To ensure that your Black Neon Tetra is living a quality life, tank size is as important as any other factor involved in their fitness.

Black Neon Tetras live in groups. So technically, they need larger tanks to swing around at their own pace.

The minimum tank size is 20 gallons for a Black Neon Tetra, but the number can go up to 40 gallons if there are other community tank mates with them.

Pro tip: Black Neon Tetras are pros at jumping out of the tank. To ensure their safety and stop them from displaying their jumping skills, secure the tank with a lid.

Water Parameters

Contrary to what most people believe, the water in their native homes is not clean or transparent. Instead, it is tea-colored, high in pH levels, and filled with decaying plant matter.

While creating their aquarium, gauging the right parameters is important to keep your Black Neon Tetra healthy. They prefer swimming in moderate water currents. So, make sure the current is not too low or too high.

The water temperature should be between 70°F to 82°F degrees, with the water hardness around 6Kh. Black Neon Tetras in their habitat survive disturbed acidity levels. To keep these problems away from intruding on your fish, keep the water parameters similar to what they are naturally intimate with.

Pro Tip: A Black Neon Tetra that is newly introduced to the aquarium can have a hard time adapting to the environment. It's better to keep checking on them every now and again and see how they progress through the first days.

Filtration and Aeration

Filtering out the water frequently is another important factor that leads up to their overall physical fitness.

Even though Black Neon Tetras are tiny and don’t produce too much waste, the cumulative waste of 6 to 7 tetras is enough to pollute the water. If you don’t weed out the waste material on time, your Black Neon Tetras will end up with high ammonia and nitrate levels.

Once a week, strain out at least 25% of water and add fresh water to their tanks. Also, purchase a strong filtration system like a hang-on-back filter or a canister filter.

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Pro Tip: Keep at least 60% 75% water in your tank while cleaning out the dirt or waste. Drastic changes in water can be fatal for your fish.


Black Neon Tetras don’t expose themselves to luminous lighting. In fact, Neon Tetra eggs are extremely sensitive to brightness. Also, in the dull light, their bands look more prominent.

So, try to keep the aquarium’s light of your Black Neon Tetras subdued. You can use low LED light to make the tank dimly lit. But make sure the aquarium is not completely deprived of natural lighting because it keeps the plants healthy.

Aquatic Plants and Decorations

As with most Tetras, filling your tank with dense live plants is crucial to making Black Neon Tetras feel at home. The regions they call home contain rotting plants, driftwoods, and twisted roots.

Despite their preference for staying close to the surface of their tank, they still explore their surroundings.

They conduct their family gatherings, do food hunting and keep themselves floating around during the morning hours. To recharge their energy, they travel to the bottom levels at night. Adding caves to the tank will allow them to do that.

Some great recommendations for live plants are Java Moss, Brazilian pennywort (one of the best floating plants), Amazon sword, Cabomba, Vallisneria, Cryptocoryne wendti, Anubias nana, and Ludwigia repens.

Not only these plants will add up to your aquarium beauty, but they will also keep the water oxygenated and free from ammonia.

Pro Tip: Place plants in the tank at a fine distance from one another so the fish can easily roam around and explore.

Tank Maintenance

You don’t need to fuss over cleaning their tanks. It’s easier than you think. Here are some really easy tips to get you started.

How to clean their tank

  1. Start cleaning off debris from the substrate using a gravel vac if the substrate is larger. Skim the surface if you use sand.
  2. Rub the wall sides of the tank with a soft brush. Use a scraper for the rest of the glass
  3. Clean the plants and other decorative items. Use a soft brush for plants and decor


Layer the bottom of their tank with dark sand substrate. Introduce plants to the foot of their habitat to give them a homely taste. Leaves, similar to their role in the wild, will make the water brown and increase the pH levels. Change the leaves from time to time and place twisted roots on the sub-substrate, too.

Community Tank Mates

As I mentioned earlier, Black Neon Tetras can easily get along with a variety of fish species. They love being around fish from their tetra species, but you can also pair them up with other fish.

Except for certain situations, they never display aggression or other behavior issues while being with other fish species. But avoid placing them with aggressive fish or any large fish that can turn them into its meal.

Here’s a list of some compatible tank mates from their own species, Tetras.

  1. Small Freshwater Catfish
  2. Chili Rasbora
  3. Dwarf Gourami
  4. Harlequin Rasbora
  5. Celestial Pearl Danio
  6. Honey Gourami
  7. Rummy Nose Tetra
  8. Sparkling Gourami
  9. Freshwater Aquarium Nails
  10. Neon Tetra

Poor tank mates

Housing your little Neon Tetra with any large or aggressive fish is not certainly a good option. The temperament Black Neon Tetras has is quite pleasant, but not every fish can will align with their nature.

Here are some incompatible tank mates:

  1. Freshwater Sharks
  2. Most Cichlids
  3. Large aggressive fish
  4. Nippy fish like Tiger barbs


Preparing the groundwork to breed them is pretty simple if the water hardness, acidic conditions, and temperature are gauged accurately. The overall water parameters, a diet composed of live foods, and keeping the tank dim are enough to trigger them to breed (video source).

Other Tetras and Black Neon Tetras are alike in spawning. They need open water to release their eggs and milt.

To encourage the spawning season, prepare a separate breeding tank for the male Neon Tetras and the female Neon Tetras. After setting up their breeding tank, cover the surface with a towel or something else suitable for the purpose and raise the temperature. The temperature should be around 79° F to 80° F.

Feeding them live foods, as well as paying attention to other factors important for activating the spawning conditions, holds great importance.

As discussed earlier in the article, the females look fatten from their abdomens, which shows they are pregnant. The only difference between a pregnant female and a non-pregnant fish is the fulness of their abdomens. The former looks more pronounced from the belly.

You don’t need to have a large spawning tank for them to breed. A 5 to 10-gallon tank is enough for the breeding pair.

Black Neon Tetras are egg layers. In the separate tank, the female needs a spawning site for fry to attach. If you don’t have one, you can create it with fine-leaved plants. As an alternative to fine-leaved plants, get a synthetic analog that is easier to clean.

Also, cover the surface with something to protect the eggs from falling. You will also need to protect them from their parents because of their poor parenting instincts.

The mother fish will lay hundreds of eggs and will attach them to the substrate. Within 20 to 30 hours, the eggs will hatch.

Now comes the baby Neon Tetras. Until they are large enough to eat, they will survive on their egg sac. After that, feed them baby brine shrimp and keep them in a different tank until they grow large enough to further grow among the adult Tetras.

Food and Diet

They are pretty good with almost everything you put in their tank. In the wild, they sustain themselves on small crustaceans, filamentous algae, and invertebrates.

In the aquarium, feeding Black Neon Tetras is quite easy. You can give them brine shrimps, very fine fry food, mosquito larvae, or frozen bloodworms.

To keep your fish healthy, adding some vitamins like Vita Chem into their diet will positively affect their overall growth and activity.

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Common Health Problems

Like other tropical fish, Black Neon Tetras are also susceptible to common health problems. They are hardy and can put up with rough conditions, but here are some pathological conditions you might see them fighting with.


Most fish species get infected with Ich due to stress. Larger fish in the tank or not having a home-resembling environment can stress out your Black Neon Tetra.

The symptoms are:

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. White spots on the gills or other body parts
  3. Abnormal hiding behavior


This is another common health problem in tropical fish species.

Symptoms include:

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Lethargy
  3. Swelling of stomach
  4. Unusual floating at the top

Neon Tetra Disease

Your fish is likely to get infected by a disease called Neon tetra Disease. This disease was first found in Neon Tetras. Fish suffering from Ich are more prone to this ailment.

Symptoms are:

  1. Cysts
  2. Difficulty to swim
  3. Segregation from tank mates
  4. Curving of the spine

From the first two ailments, Neon Tetras can easily get cured, but there’s no cure for Neon Tetra Disease. To stop it from spreading, separate the infected fish from the healthy ones.


How many should be together?

Keep at least 6 of them together so they don’t feel alone or stressed.

Do they need a heater?

They don’t usually need a heater if your home stays within 2 degrees if their desired range, but they do come in handy when trying to spawn them.

Is my fish pregnant?

The swollen belly of your fish is a visible sign of pregnancy. If you noticed it, then yes.

Are thy good tank mates?

They are the best tank mates you can add to other tropical fish. They are generally peaceful, will get along with most fish, and aren’t a danger to eating most fish and inverts.

Closing Thoughts

Neon tetras are a great choice for any tank, but they can be particularly beneficial in planted and community tanks. They are hardy fish that will add color and activity to your tank without disrupting the peace. Have you ever kept black neons before? Let us know your experience in the comments!

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